Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Form Based Zoning: DOA

Amherst Town Meeting members call for "tally vote" by holding up cards

Despite 80% support from the Select Board and 60% of Town Meeting members, Form Based Zoning in North Amherst village center and Atkins Corner in deep South Amherst failed to clear the high hurdle of a two thirds vote, going down to defeat after 2.5 hours of discussion with 119 yes votes and 79 no.

The majority of the discussion centered on North Amherst where Town Meeting was told by two speakers that over 100 "residents of Montague Road" had signed a petition opposing the article (turns out to be more like a dozen actual residents), but Atkins Corner in South Amherst also drew criticism because the two new roundabouts are not yet functioning and the noise from the Norwottuck Gun Club was portrayed as a major detriment to health and safety.

Unfortunately the cumulative effect of having two large separate areas involved--each with its own set of NIMBYs--doomed the ambitious undertaking. Perhaps if someone had divided the motion and let each village center be voted on separately one of them could have passed.

Overall, like the demise of the Gateway Project, the fear that increased density of development was not family friendly and would bring more student party houses to disrupt neighborhoods with late night noise, traffic, fighting, vandalism, unsightly trash and body fluids caused the defeat.

Maybe now town and UMass officials will get serious about controlling rowdy, alcohol fueled behavior of the tiny minority of students who are having such a detrimental impact on civility at large.

Selectman and North Amherst resident Jim Wald presented the article

Quintessential NIMBY Mary Streeter cited safety and environmental concerns with Atkins Corner

Atkins neighbor Seymour Epstein cited noise and pollution to a trout stream, calling the planning charrette a "charade"

Former Selectman Gerry Weiss was concerned the village centers would compete with downtown businesses


Anonymous said...

Form-based zoning for what? So the Joneses can put in hundreds of housing units? This should be called Jones-based zoning. Sorry guys, too many people could see through this one.

LarryK4 said...

Always seems to be the same people who "see through" any attempt at bringing our town into the 21st century.

And I don't think Jones owns all that much property around Atkins Corner.

Anonymous said...

Haste should be made slowly. They should have had enough sense to know it wouldn't fly. Too big a bite of the apple. Sophomoric, rose-colored glasses thinking at best

Atkins Corner land is close to 60% Hampshire and Conservation. Nothing's going to happen there

Anonymous said...

You can call people a name, like NYMBY, or listen to what they have to say, address those issues and work something out. People living in North Amherst don't want the village center and denser zoning expanded into their residential neighborhood. So respect that and work within the existing village center. Neighbors don't feel listened to because they are not listened to. Their opposition will stand until their concerns are taken care of in the final decision. How many times will the planning dept make the same mistake with the same results? We need new leadership that works with neighbors not against them.

Anonymous said...

Applewood and Hampshire College lose out with the defeat in South Amherst. I guess the wrong approach was taken for this area.

Anonymous said...

If offered the choice between Amherst Town Meeting service and his current line of work, Sisyphus would say, "No thanks, I'll stay with this rock."

Anonymous said...

Bottom line is that Amherst is a beautiful place to live with a lot of trails, fields, good public services, quality neighborhoods, good places to shop, eat, see movies, hear lectures and music, etc.. Who is responsible for that if not Town Meeting members over the years and residents who fight to keep it that way.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand hpw Applewood and Hampshire lose out. What do you mean?

Anonymous said...

They may not have owned property at Atkins corner but they sure own it in N. Amherst. Next time don't link them together.

If the Joneses want to build a huge housing development that's one thing, but don't dress it up as beautification of these village centers. This would have radically expanded development in N. Amherst, which would not only have impacted the exisiting residents. but also put a big strain on Amherst's services, such as fire and police.

Anonymous said...

Wiess has a point with all the empty storefronts downtown.

Anonymous said...

Form-based zoning in S. Amherst is just smoke screen for Hampshire College's plan to diversify their revenue because they have almost no endowment. Vote this in and they will go on a building spree.

Anonymous said...

... And then - if not careful - go bankrupt! (Maybe the
zoning defeat at Atkins Corner actually did Hampshire College a favor?)

Ed said...

Larry, the wisest thing the University could do would be to simply abandon all issues of off campus student behavior.

Amherst has not yet indicated that it will ever do anything (except have a hand out) for the university and perhaps it is time for it - like any big business -- to look after its own best interests.

F*** Amherst. Lots of land in Springfield and Chicopee and near I-90 to boot.

Anonymous said...

You are right Ed, and when UMass moves to Chicopee ten years from now (perhaps adjoining a casino) you will be the first to register for classes, as the perpetual student you are.

Anonymous said...

Remind me again: what happened to that Town Meeting coalition of parents and others interested in the Town's tax base who used to carry the 2/3'ds in there?

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, when it comes to pushing for an Override they seem to get a lot more motivated.

Anonymous said...

The leadership of the coalition could not tolerate disagreement in their ranks about the quality of our public schools.

So they blew up what they worked so hard to build.

Meanwhile, each NIMBY controversy is an opportunity to recruit more NIMBYs to the ranks in there. And then they all scratch each other's backs.

And the rest of the Town sleeps on.

The same mentality that says "Why can't we burn fossil fuels forever going forward AND still have a clean environment?" is the same mentality here that says "Why can't we continue to take more and more land off of the tax rolls AND still have great schools?" Out of fear of the future, we whistle past the graveyard year after year.